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NATO's musketeering makes all less secure: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-07-10 19:13

People walk inside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, which has been decorated with signage in preparation for the NATO Summit, on July 8. [Photo/VCG]

The ongoing NATO Summit in Washington was initially aimed at finding ways to reassure Ukraine of the organization's enduring support and offer some hope to its battle-weary citizens that their country might prevail in its conflict with Russia. But it is US President Joe Biden's health and cognitive abilities that grabbed the attention of all sides before the start of the gathering on Tuesday.

The NATO Summit undoubtedly comes at a trying moment in the US president's bid for reelection, and the three-day meeting is also likely to become a trying test for Biden to prove he is "fine", as he claims. The gathering on the 75th anniversary of the alliance's founding involves not only the 32 leaders of the NATO member states but also others from some Asia-Pacific countries and international organizations invited to attend. That means dozens of multilateral and bilateral meetings and a lot of talking for Biden.

After his stumbling in the first televised debate with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump two weeks ago, which has raised questions about his ability to defeat his challenger in the November election, Biden is intent on using the NATO Summit to show he is capable of not only winning that contest but also holding office for another four years.

However, all parties are holding a wait-and-see attitude toward that, even as the White House has tried its best to reassure the public of the president's health and mental capacities.

Yet several anonymous senior US officials, who say there isn't — at least not yet — a crisis of confidence over Biden's general mental state, told the media that the president displays a strong grasp of the broader issues — Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the threat posed by China — but on specific and incremental actions that countries or groups may take when it comes to these conflicts, Biden has appeared confused at times.

Even if Biden can prove he is no less vigorous and healthy, over the three days, than the 75-year-old organization that was said to be "brain dead" just three years back, the other leaders have enough reasons to care about a U-turn change in the US' NATO policy if Biden does lose the election.

European anxiety was heightened in February when Trump warned NATO allies in a campaign speech that he "would encourage" the Russians "to do whatever the hell they want" to countries that don't meet defense spending goals if he returns to the White House.

If that happens, the most pressing challenge the European NATO member states will be facing in just a few months will not be about how to support Ukraine to defeat Russia, but how to come up with the money to pay their NATO dues at a time when many European economies are flagging and there is public questioning of whether spending it that way is putting the money to best use.

The US and several other allies have said they will deliver on the $1 billion air defense systems they have pledged to provide Ukraine at the opening of the NATO Summit on Tuesday. But how the others will follow up remains a question. The US used its you-are-on-the-table-or-the-menu argument to coerce its allies to follow its lead not long ago when they appeared to be reluctant to be dragged into its geopolitical games. It remains to be seen how Washington will try and persuade its allies to open up their wallets this time to stake its geopolitical games of aggression.

Over the past more than three years, an increasing number of people, including in the NATO member states, have seen clearly that the Three Musketeers-like vow of all for one, one for all "collective security model for like-minded countries" that Biden has tried to resurrect from the Cold War era has brought disastrous consequences to Europe and beyond.

A more consensus-seeking secretary-general is set to replace the US yes-man head of the organization. Over the past decade, the latter has done a good job in turning the NATO countries into an extended buffer zone for the US, transforming Russia from a potential dialogue partner into an enemy, and even antagonizing faraway China. So it is to be hoped the rest of the NATO member states will get a reality check and realize that their true concerns are not external threats but internal challenges.

NATO is howling that once security is hijacked by a few, it becomes a threat to all.

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